A growing number of developing countries receive billions of dollars a year in assistance, loans, and investments from China. Already in 2010, Beijing has committed $25 billion to Asean nations. In March, Zambia’s president returned from a trip to China with a $1 billion loan in hand.
As Beijing’s levels of foreign assistance swell and its relationship deepens with countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, a key question emerges: What impact will investments by an opaque and repressive superpower have on governance standards in the developing world?
Findings from a Freedom House analysis, “Countries at the Crossroads,” point to the challenges that many of these recipient countries confront as they struggle to build more transparent and accountable systems. Fighting corruption and safeguarding freedom of expression and assembly are proving especially difficult. The dark side of Beijing’s engagement, with its nontransparent aid and implicit conditions, risks tipping the balance in the wrong direction.